Thursday, 16 March 2017

March 16 Birding with the Bay Area Birders in Brownsville

This morning we drove over to Brownsville and parked to the west of the university in the abandoned parking lot of the old Holiday Inn on Elizabeth St. just north of Ringgold.

We customarily get a good look in the palm trees for the parrots which became established from a small group of escapees from the 1970s. They did not dissappoint.

We saw several groups squawking and flying. They are very social animals - highly intelligent and in great need of companionship. As I may have mentioned before, Skip says they're like a three-year-old with a can-opener on its face.

I believe these are red-crowned parrots. Others seen in this area are red-lored parakeets, white-crowned parrots (we saw some today), yellow-headed, and lilac-crowned parrots.
Much to our delight, this one posed for us. "See? I can hang upside down!"
Along the resaca we saw a green kingfisher but he was behind too much vegetation for me to get a good shot. Across the resaca, this anhinga was drying out its feathers.
On the bridge across the resaca, I saw the yellow-crowned night heron fly in. He stayed in the shade so the shot wasn't all that great.
 You can really see its yellow crown here.

Great Kiskadee

The black phoebe seemed to follow us wherever we went. I got this shot through Bob's spotting scope.

Black phoebe
On the north side of the resaca on the campus, there was great excitement when this black-throated green warbler was spotted.
My camera doesn't take the greatest shots in the shade but you get the idea.
Along the path where the kumquat trees are, we saw a house finch that was a yellow (orange) variant.

It was an excellent morning of birding. Skip and I will definitely pay the campus another visit before we head for home.

We then stopped in for lunch at El Gallito in San Benito. According to TripAdvisor it is the #1 restaurant out of 26 in that town. We had taquitos de bistek with charro beans. I give it a 3 out of 5. They didn't give us a pile of fried onions and the beans were from a can. El Cien near Los Fresnos, Mexiquito in Port Isabel, and Cap'n Roy's in SPI are our favourites.

Last year Skip picked up a free calendar at the SPI visitors' centre from Our Lady of San Juan del Valle Basilica in San Juan, about 30 more minutes up the valley from Harlingen. We see the huge mosaic mural from the highway every time we drive by. Today we stopped in to check it out.
Around the basilica are the 14 stations of the cross - all life-size. I noted that Jesus had fresh flowers on his thorny crown. This is station #3 where Jesus falls for the first time.
We got in through one of the back doors and immediately came upon this room where people were praying and lighting candles in front of a huge 3D mural which is lit by a strategically-placed sky light.
The stained glass windows appeared to be grouted rather than leaded.
When we entered the main part of the church, the mural is actually the backdrop for the altar.

Various saints are posted on the walls around the circular hallway around the main part. This is St. Francis of Assisi.
 Back outside we got shots of the beautiful facades and landscaping.
These are the main stairs but there are lots of wheelchair ramps.
To the left of the staircase is the holy water fountain. People were filling jugs here. I'm not sure what they do with the water. I don't think I'd drink it, though.
Nearby is a table where CDs of the music from the weekly mariachi mass are sold as well as the current calendar (which Skip got free last year).
The old holy water fountain was just to the right of that. It had a sign directing people to the newer, bigger fountain.
A mosaic of Our Lady is above it.
In the gift shop, I found one of the mariachi CDs. I held back from buying one, although the music was playing in the gift shop.
On our way back to the car, this fellow flew up to the overhead wires. A loggerhead shrike.
I couldn't help taking a bunch of photos.

We then continued up the valley to check into our lodgings for the next three nights. It is our escape from Spring Break on the island. It was starting to get really noisy last night with sounds of sirens and car horns every once and a while. The folks in the condo behind ours partied quite loudly at their respective pools although it didn't keep us from konking out.

We have a list of about 10 things we want to do while we're in the McAllen area. Eating at El Gallito and visiting the basilica were two things we were able to check off today.

The weather is supposed to be hot (29C - 31C) for the next few days and mostly sunny. It should be a good weekend.

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